midlife woman in bed

4 Good Reasons to Masturbate in Midlife

By Ryn Pfeuffer
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
February 14, 2023

Masturbation may not be a topic of discussion at the dinner table, but it’s certainly something many of us are doing. In fact, a survey published in PLoS One in 2017 of more than 2,000 American adults found that about 40% of women had masturbated within the previous month.

Good for them, says Anna Cabeca, D.O., a board-certified ob-gyn who specializes in talking to women about hormone management, and author of MenuPause: Five Unique Eating Plans to Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau and Improve Mood, Sleep, and Hot Flashes. She means this literally—Cabeca says that “self-pleasuring” (her term of preference) is good and healthy for women of any age, but she emphasizes the benefits of masturbation after 40.

The Benefits of Getting in Touch with Yourself

“[Masturbation] is especially important as a woman ages because it increases the hormone oxytocin, which is the hormone of longevity and is associated with optimal aging, including better connection, better mood, and better physical health,” Cabeca says.

There’s an obvious connection between self-pleasure and sexual pleasure. “When a patient discusses low libido in the office, the first thing I ask is ‘Do you still masturbate?” says Taniqua Miller, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn in Atlanta. “A healthy masturbation practice tells me that my patient is still interested in pleasure and orgasms.”

Not everyone masturbates, acknowledges Miller—“and that’s fine,” she says. Miller adds that she would never prescribe masturbation to a patient asking about decreasing sex drive.

But for those who are open to it, masturbation can be an expansive and educational experience. “Many of my patients will explore masturbation as an option in midlife because penetrative intercourse hurts, or they have a partner who has erectile dysfunction,” Miller says.

4 Reasons to Embrace Masturbation After 40

Maybe you’ve been masturbating throughout your life and it’s no biggie, or maybe it’s a new concept for you, or maybe you could use a refresher course or a reminder. Regardless of what stage you’re at, here are some great reasons to make more room for self-pleasure as you reach midlife.

1. Midlife Masturbation May Help You Understand Your “New Normal”

A lot of hormonal and physical changes take place after the age of 40. Women may start to notice more vaginal dryness or trouble climaxing. They may notice weight gain or redistribution of weight, or their sex drive may start to shift (either up or down).

Sex in midlife may be different than it was in your 20s or 30s. Carol Queen, Ph.D., San Francisco–based Good Vibrations staff sexologist and curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum, says masturbation helps you get to know yourself anew. With or without toys, it can help you understand any changes in your response, the time it takes to reach orgasm, and so on, Queen says.

“And masturbation is ideal for giving you the ability to really focus on and understand yourself,” Queen says.

Queen adds that midlife masturbation offers an opportunity for self rediscovery. “Partner sex isn't always the perfect place to understand what your ‘new normal’ might be—or to explore new elements that can restore some of your ‘old normal.’”

2. Masturbation Helps You Prioritize Your Needs

Whether you’re solo or partnered, it’s important to put yourself first. As the late author Betty Dodson, who wrote Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Self Love and is often referred to as the Mother of Masturbation, put it: “Women are bottomless pits of sexual pleasure.”

Our society tends to overemphasize partner sex. But focusing on ourselves is a good thing, too. “The most significant thing about masturbation is that it allows you to connect with yourself—meaning you learn more deeply what brings you pleasure and how your body works,” Queen says. It shows you that you can bring yourself pleasure via arousal and orgasm, and that you can access this skill whenever you want, regardless of who you’re with and what they’re doing.

The fact that masturbation shows you that you don’t have to depend on someone else for your pleasure, she says, “is a really important gift.” Queen adds that benefits like self-knowledge and self-efficacy, combined with relaxation and pain control, make self-pleasure a uniquely powerful key to your well‑being.

3. Masturbation May Help Keep Your Body Working Well

“Regular vaginal stimulation, whether from masturbation, oral, or penetrative sex, can stimulate the vaginal blood flow, which in turn helps with vaginal lubrication,” Miller says. At a time in life when hormones may affect natural lubrication and result in vaginal dryness, keeping the blood flowing to that area is never a bad thing, she adds.

4. Midlife Masturbation Can Help Put Women at Ease

Miller says that perimenopause can cause some women to experience anxiety about their sexual health. “When some women have concerns over sexual arousal or interest in midlife, the ability to masturbate to orgasm can be very reassuring,” she says.

Orgasms cause the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which calms your mood and gives you a sense of well‑being and peace. This is why masturbation can be a great stress reliever and can even help with insomnia when done before bed.

Miller notes that some women are simply not interested in sex—not with a partner and not solo. And if they’re comfortable with that, then that’s fine, too. But for those who are interested in exploring self-pleasure, there are many toys they may find helpful and even fun.

Recommended Toys for Women over 40

Queen recommends the following sex toys for enhancing midlife masturbation. (All are available at Good Vibrations, where Queen lectures, as well as other retailers.)

Womanizer Liberty Clitoral Stimulator

During menopause, lower levels of estrogen may decrease blood flow to the vagina and clitoris. An external, clitoris-focused toy like the Liberty Clitoral Stimulator ($99) can help with that.

CLF Starsi External Vibrator

If you’d like to experience wide-ranging pleasure, the adorable Starsi ($93) fits in the palm easily and can rove all over your body. Use it as a slow warmup, pleasuring nipples, inner thighs, and other erogenous zones. (This brand makes toys for any and every body, so the Starsi doesn't have a gendered look at all).

LELO Gigi 2 Rechargeable Vibrator

Queen always recommends the Gigi ($160) as a toy for women over 40, saying it’s “a terrific and versatile vibe.” If penetration is painful, this can be used externally for feel-good effects, and the tip has a flattened area to provide more stimulation to the clitoris. If penetrative sex isn’t an issue, the Gigi also has a setting for G-spot exploration and stimulation.

NS Novelties Colours Silicone Plugs

If decreasing pelvic sensation becomes an issue in midlife or beyond, anal toys can up the oomph. The Colours set ($49) includes three sizes of silicone plugs. Pro tip: Use them with lube!

Je Joue Ami Kegel Exerciser

With age, muscle mass tends to decrease all over the body, including in the pelvic floor area. “Loss of muscle mass and strength leads to incontinence, prolapse, and possible changes in the way sex feels,” Cabeca says. Queen recommends doing regular Kegel exercises with these Ami Silicone Kegel Exercisers ($65) to help tone and strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Focus on Yourself

Masturbation after 40 can offer a variety of health benefits for women. It can also help them feel better (physically and emotionally) when they aren't necessarily feeling like their old selves, having a profound effect on mood and well‑being. And furthermore, says Cabeca, “we are designed for pleasure.”

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